On National Forests, there a large variety of recreational opportunities. These include
, camping, hiking, and hunting to name a few.
There is another type of recreation called motorized recreation that use off-highway vehicles (OHVs), which includes four-wheel drive vehicles, dune buggies, dirt bikes, and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Since 1972, the number of OHV users in national forests has risen by more than 1000
Motorized recreation in the right place at the right time is a legitimate recreational activity on national forests and grasslands. However, irresponsible use by a small number of riders is becoming a growing problem. These riders leave lasting impacts by traveling off roads and trails and creating unauthorized roads, ruts, and trails.
(and other OHVs ) go up hillsides, they damage vegetation, leave ruts and when it rains the soil is washed away and fills our streams and arroyos. Meadows and grasslands are being permanently scarred when ATVs go through them. Riparian areas along streams and lakes are being damaged. Archeological sites are also being destroyed. Wildlife, fish, and native vegetation are also cted where this irresponsible use is occurring.
n the fragile desert ecosystems of the Southwest, vegetation takes a longer time to recover and hundreds of acres of fragile habitat are being
ed each year. One irresponsible rider can do a lifetime of damage.
In order to address the problems associated with unmanaged off-highway vehicles, such as ATVs and OHVs, the Forest Service was directed to implement the Travel Management Rule. The Travel Management Rule required each national forest and grassland to designate roads, trails, and areas open to motorized use by type of vehicle and time of year. Those designated routes are identified on a motor vehicle use map (MVUM).
Once routes are designated, cross- vehicle use off the designated system is prohibited. A managed system of roads, trails, and areas designated for motor vehicle use will better protect natural and cultural resources, address use conflicts, and secure sustainable opportunities for public enjoyment of national forests and grasslands.
Sometimes when someone hears about the Forest Service managing the national forests in ways that prevents them from using the forest the way they want or how they’ve “always” used the forests, this person feels like the U.S. Forest Service is infringing upon their rights.
But, this is not the case.
So why manage or regulate these activities? To prevent the damage in the forests I mentioned earlier. More and more people are coming to and using the national forests for recreation. This is putting a lot of pressure on forest ecosystems. The Forest Service tries to balance people using the forests and protecting those ecosystems.
The Mt Taylor Ranger District of the Cibola National Forest has completed the Travel Management Plan. From this plan a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) has been developed which shows designated roads for all vehicles, trails for ATVs/UTVs, and trails for motorcycles. The MVUM is free and available at the Mt. Taylor Ranger District office and at the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center.
Within the next few weeks a Motorized Trail Guide will become available at the Southwestern Regional Office, Cibola National Forest Supervisors Office, Mt. Taylor Ranger District office, and at the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center.
The cost of this trail guide is $2. This guide shows 175 miles of motorized trails
on the Mt. Taylor Ranger District. ATV/UTV cattle guards have been installed at strategic fence crossings. These ATV/UTV cattle guards reduce the incidents of cowboy gates left open and should enhance ATV/UTV use in the District. Additional ATV/UTV cattle guard installations are scheduled this summer.
So, if you like driving around in OHVs, get a Motorized Trail Guide, drive responsibly, and enjoy your National Forests.
Steve Walker works for the U.S. Forest Service and is on staff at the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center in Grants.